Personal protective equipment such as facemasks and hand sanitizers have played a key role in the response to COVID-19 pandemic, which has gripped the whole world since the beginning of this year.
Healthcare workers wear face masks to prevent germs from their noses and mouths from passing to the patient as well as to protect themselves from infection, while hand sanitizers reduce the number of microbes on hands.
The topic of protective clothing has, in the recent past, become very much mainstream, with these products entering broader use outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities in response to Coronavirus.
The demand for face masks, hand sanitizers and other personal protective gear has risen, attracting a number of local companies to venture out into domestic production.
A few weeks ago, the Government approved a list of more than 45 local manufacturers of face masks and hand sanitizers.
However, as companies produce these much needed essentials at home, the rise of substandard and poor quality products became a norm.
The Government had to recall a series of products from the market, and issued stern warnings to firms that churn out substandard products.
One important aspect, however, is the issuance of new quality standards by the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) to enable producers to make high quality products to protect human life.
“We developed standards for face masks and reviewed standards for hand sanitizers to protect citizens and make sure that products on the market are really serving the right purpose,” Raymond Murenzi, RSB Director General told The New Times last week.
Rwanda Standards Board Director General Raymond Murenzi.
According to Murenzi, the new developed national standards are RS 433-1 2020 Face masks — Specification — Part 1 Medical masks, and RS 433-2 2020 Face masks — Specification — Part 2 Barrier masks.
and highlight technical specifications that must be observed by businesses. As a facilitating measure in the fight against COVID-19, these standards as well as many other regional and international standards for essential products in this regard are accessible free of charge to all manufacturers, regulators, researchers and any other interested people.
“Normally standards are sold at different costs depending on their volume, but in this (Covid-19) period we made sure that national and international standards for essential products are accessed free of charge by any citizen and the industry. Also, we offer training, quality testing and certification services to the manufacturers,” he said.
The target, as Murenzi explains, is to ensure that the cost of accessing standards and certification services does not burden businesses and perhaps affect the presence of the essential protective gear on the market.
The new developed standards also provide for key test parameters to ensure the manufactured masks conform to the preset quality and safety requirements. The key parameters also tested at RSB Quality Testing Laboratories include: Fiber composition, Fabric specific weight, Porosity or air permeance, Tensile strength, Dimensional test, Color Fastness to washing and inspection of Marking or Labelling and packaging information as per standards requirement.
RSB calls mask manufacturers and other business communities engaged in production of hand sanitizers to use these national standards.
“We encourage producers, especially those that produce barrier masks to access the quality infrastructure that we have. Our services do not only assure quality of products but also facilitate market access as our quality testing laboratories and certification services are acquired international accreditation, which makes the services to be internationally recognized and trusted.” Murenzi noted.
In April, RSB trained mask manufacturers on standards requirements and is currently working with some industries who applied for certification of face masks and hand sanitizers.
Already, RSB informs that some hand sanitizers have been granted S-Mark and others are in the process, while the Standards Body received and is working on applications for face masks:
“Before we couldn’t get any producer who was certified,” Murenzi said, adding that at least eight manufacturers of face masks have sent in applications and RSB is working with them in the certification process.
Rwanda Standards Board undertakes all activities pertaining to the development of Standards, Conformity Assessment and Metrology services in the country.
Currently, the National Standards Body developed and published more than 2700 Standards covering the areas of food and agriculture, engineering, Information Technology, service, water and environment, chemistry, chemical and consumer products; and through its services domestic industry can have access to more than 60,000 standards developed by partnering International Standards setting bodies.
In efforts to ensure customer-suited services and contribute in the socio-economic development of the country, in addition to the accreditation of certification and testing services, RSB participates in international standards setting activities and the institution acquired certification of her services (ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems certification) in 2017.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu